1956 Ford, 2-door Coupe, Black
By Chip Deyerle
That was part of a radio call heard on the police monitor that Friday evening m in the newsroom of a small town newspaper in southwest Virginia. It would also be the story line in the Saturday morning paper, complete with photographs. The background noise of the newsroom became quiet except for the City Editor who was busy taking another news story from a distant reporter in Abington. Two other reporters and two staff photographers finishing sandwiches for their dinner drew immediately near the news room police monitor.
“All cars, be advised that… WT-7… is following a suspicious vehicle… northbound on Rt. 221…stand by for further information,” came the deep, southern voice of the duty police dispatcher.
Moments later, “Dispatch, this is WT-7, ” came a quiet response. “ Run this plate – Virginia 245-669.”
“Roger, WT-7”replied the dispatcher.
Moments later, WT-7 advised he was now closer to the suspicious vehicle and moving at the speed limit, but he advised for downtown units to be on the lookout for the vehicle should the situation change. The dispatcher acknowledged the message.
It was only moments later that WT-7 called again, this time with alarm that the suspect vehicle had failed to stop on the Viaduct over the railroad tracks outside the city center, and was now speeding at a very high rate toward an intersection with US 460 and an escape east of town . The 1962 Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor driven by WT-7 was not good matchup against the little 56 Ford Coupe.
It was clear to all who listened to the monitor that 56 Ford Coup was suspected to be driven by a bootlegger from the” wettest county in America,” Franklin County, Virginia.
“All cars… WT-7 is in pursuit of a… 1956-2 door coupe, black…last seen approaching Williamson Road and Orange Avenue. WT-7 is… gray four door Crown Victoria. Use caution as this vehicle is traveling at a very high speed,” said the dispatcher.
The news room ignited into a flurry of activity and two photographers grabbed their Leica M3’s and some flashbulbs and ran to the back of the news room exit. Bounding down four flights of stairs, both headed for the stair well to the basement garage and the 1962 Red Comet with the newspaper and News logo on both doors of the car.
The comet was easily recognized when used to make news runs for spot news stories and photos because it had the word “NEWS” on both doors, along with the company name and logo just below.
With the police chase underway, the dispatcher directed available motorcycle units 14 and 19 on traffic duty to aid in the chase if available. The dispatcher also called out the only K-9 unit in town to assist if needed.
Police units reported that they were converging on Orange Avenue east of town and were awaiting further instructions or updates.
By now WT-7 was moving at a high rate of speed and having difficulty keeping up with the speeding Ford. He attempted to contact the dispatcher again but his radio signal was breaking up as he moved out of range of the police radio communications system.
“You are breaking up, WT-7 –what is your location?” call the dispatcher desperately.
Large static was the response.
“All units be advised that WT-7 is in pursuit and is breaking up –stay off the radio unless I call you,” said the dispatcher taking back control of the air waves.
As WT-7 passed the Vinton turnoff, he found a car wreck in the intersection, with drivers and passengers out of their cars. One man was pointing east and waving in that direction. WT-7 floored the crown Victoria and picked up the chase.
WT-7 called the wreck in, suspecting that the black ford was probably culpable in the intersection accident. The police dispatcher advised of the accident and directed one of the units to work traffic in the intersection and to make sure other pursuing units are aware. He also dispatched the Life Saving Squad to respond for any injuries.
Further down the road, the black Ford pursued by the gray Ford Crown Vic was drawing closer and closer to a Semi Tractor trailer hauling groceries for a food warehouse in Salem, Virginia. Moving west at 55 miles per hour, the truck driver was not aware of the approaching police chase, nor was there any warning on his CB radio.
Meanwhile the black Ford was using the left lane of highway of a three lane highway to pass vehicles left and right. There were now about four cars and three pickup trucks that had been forced off the road on a four mile stretch of the highway.
By this time the County Sheriff Deputies had been dispatched to participate in the chase. Other counties along the highway were also alerted to the potential police chase. It would be difficult to set up road blocks, and by now, WT-7 was just out of radio contact with the police dispatcher. Messages would have to be relayed via on-scene police officers to units stopped along the chase route.
Near Bonsack, the Black Ford topped a hill while passing two cars at close to 100 miles per hour, when the truck driver saw three sets of headlights rapidly approaching r a head on collision. To avoid the catastrophe, the truck driver did the only thing he could do and that was to take his chances with a ditch on the right side of the road and into a ditch. Fortunately his injuries were minor.
In hot pursuit, the gray crown vic reached almost 120 mph as he hugged the center lane of the 3-lane highway. He could see the tail lights of his quarry dead ahead.
“WT-7-I’ve got him in sight below Bonsack, still heading east.”
“Roger, WT-7 – there are two back up units about a minute behind you.”
WT-7 acknowledged as he pushed up the hill at Bonsack. Topping the hill he saw two cars off the right side of the road and then the huge tractor trailer on its side in the ditch on the left. Looking for debris in the road, he kept the pedal down and sped off into the darkness of the Virginia country side. He could now see the flashing of red police lights in his rear view mirror and knew that he was a force majeure to deal with the speeding black Ford.
Around the next curve, and up another hill, the back-up police cars were very close now as was the Black Ford in front. Of a sudden, the black Ford began to lose speed about four hundred yards ahead. The driver’s door suddenly popped open and the driver tumbled out to the pavement while the car continued to roll forward. As quickly as the driver had hit the pavement, he was running at a crouch toward the underbrush on the left side of the highway and just as quickly disappeared. WT-7 slammed on the brakes and slid the next two hundred yards where he was abreast of the Black Ford, with engine still running. Shifting into park in one move, he was out the door running with his .38 Police Special aimed at the brush.
The backup units relayed to the Police Dispatcher that they were now on scene and pursuing the driver on foot. From the east, a Virginia State police car arrived on scene and set up a perimeter around the vehicle after shutting it off and putting the keys in his pocket. He was at once aware that the car carried moonshine, or illegal alcohol, or hooch, or white lightning.
The ground search did not produce any results that night, although when the reporters from the newspaper came roaring up in their little red comet, there was anticipation of another headline of a great chase and the capture of a large amount of illegal moonshine liquor. This stop tonight will put a dent in illegal alcohol in this county tonight, or so the police thought. After all it was a great chase and lots of mayhem this evening.
The picture of the 56 2-door Black Ford revealed the stacked boxes of mason quart jars stacked tightly in the truck and where the back seat had been removed. But this was not an ordinary “bootleg Car”.
Not by a long shot. The fact that Black Ford had carried as much booze as it did was overshadowed by the Hurst Speed Shifter recently installed; the massively rebuilt block sporting three four-barrel carburetors, racing transmission, special tires, and reinforced front end. Whoever built this car, was probably building stocks for NASCAR and other racing organizations, commented one of the police officers.
The story that night did not reflect who the driver was. While the police were credited with seizing some 18 gallons of illegal booze, the property damage done by the errant driver was in the thousands of dollars. People were injured and taken to the hospital, but thankfully, no one was seriously hurt. The little Black Ford Coupe, however, was not damaged in the slightest. No one disagreed that the little Ford could probably make some money in drag racing or perhaps even stock car races. That night the little black Ford was towed off to the Police Impound lot back in town, where it would be checked for any incriminating evidence. The vehicle might be sold at auction or other means.
It was two weeks later, on a similar Friday night that another chase ensued, this time on nearby neighborhood streets. The news room came alive as it always does when there is a reported police car chase. This call was quickly followed by a fire call to a fire alarm pull box on a street corner near 10th street, in the area of the police chase. As the Newspaper’s comet arrived on scene, so did the 1956 Ford, being driven by WT-7! Going through the gears, the little Ford made a quick left turn toward 9th street and stopped a t a house where another bootleg car, a 1956 Plymouth, white and dark pink with large tailfins, had been abandoned just moments before. Apparently the fire alarm was used to block the police chase, and quite effectively. The K-9 unit arrived and the dog and handler took off down the ally in pursuit of the driver. That driver as well, was never located.
No one seems to recall what ever happened to the Little Black Ford, but somewhere out there, the little 1956 Ford 2-door Coupe had its fifteen minutes of fame as the fastest police car of its day. Doomed to a brief life on undercover police assignments, its spirit could never be the tamed beast that it really was, running wild and wide open as it did the night it let the driver escape.
Back at the news room, there were feet on the desk at about 10:30. The police monitor was strangely silent. The story line and photos were in the editor’s office for final release. The paper was “put to bed" by about 11:00 as it was every evening except Saturday, and the presses were getting ready to run. The photographers and reporters were finished with their assignments for the evening and would head out the door to go home. But all four were still thinking about the Little Black Ford in their mind’s eye, wondering what it would be like to take it out for a little drive and really crank it up, just like the bootleggers. But reporters just report the story and the facts; they don’t make the news.